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What is gluten?

what-is-gluten

Gluten? We’re talking about it all the time these days, but what is gluten? Why can some people eat it and other can’t? What’s the buzz about gluten-free diets?  What’s the scoop about Celiac Disease?  What are the pros and cons about including gluten in a diet, or avoiding gluten all-together?  All great questions, right?  Today’s blog is the first in a five-part series on all-things-gluten.

To begin, what is gluten? 

In a nutshell, it’s a combination of 2 proteins found in wheat: glaiadin and glutenin. Similarly, in rye the protein is secalin, in barley it’s hordein, and in oats it’s avenins. All these proteins are  collectively referred to as “gluten.” When wheat flour is combined with water, the protein strands unwind and link together to form a membrane-like network which is called gluten. All grains have endosperm, a tissue produced in seeds that are ground to make flour.  Endosperm from these grains both nourish plant embryos during germination, and more importantly affects the elasticity of dough which affects the chewiness of baked products.

Gluten helps foods maintain its shape, acting as sort of a ‘glue’ or binding agent that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods as follows:

Wheat is commonly found in:

  • breads;
  • baked goods;
  • soups;
  • pasta;
  • cereals;
  • sauces;
  • salad dressings.

And, derivatives of wheat such as:

  • wheatberries;
  • durum;
  • emmer;
  • semolina;
  • spelt;
  • farina;
  • farro;
  • graham;
  • einkorn wheat.

Barley is commonly found in:

  • malt (malted barley flour, milk, milkshakes, extract, syrup, flavoring, vinegar);
  • food coloring;
  • soups;
  • beer;
  • Brewer’s Yeast.

Rye is commonly found in:

  • rye bread, such as pumpernickel;
  • rye beer;
  • cereals.

So, gluten is in a lot of different foods. Read the labels, and be mindful of how much gluten is in food.

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